Picture designed by Peter Huang, some rights reserved
In the rapid development of the short video industry, the Douyin app and its international vision TikTok are definitely a dark horse with outstanding performance. Douyin has become an innovative market leader in using the effective communication of Internet platforms to promote the spread of culture on a global scale and users’ self-presentation on the social media platform. This article will briefly introduce the operation of Douyin, study its historical development. Moreover, Douyin’s business model and Internet ecology will be explored in the second part. Lastly, it will focus on the relationship between current short video innovation and Internet transformation.
What is Douyin?
Douyin is a music short video social software under company ByteDance with PGC (Professional Generated Content) and UGC (User Generated Content) as its operating models (Bytedance, n.d.). Since its launch on September 26, 2016, it has continuously innovated and optimized its business model using advanced technologies such as AI technology, recommendation engine, and AR (augmented reality). The international vision TikTok has been widely participated and pursued by youth, and even more popular than Instagram among US Teens (King, 2019). Douyin provides a platform for users to present themselves on social media, using 15-second short videos as the main information interaction method.
TikTok Worldwide Downloads by Mediakix, some rights reserved
The historical development of Douyin.
Phase No. 1
In the first six months since Douyin was released, it has not received public attention, and even the official has not worked hard on promotions. In fact, the focus of its introduction stage is to optimize product performance and customer experience, and initially seek the market (Light, 2018). For example, adding various special effects, filters, stickers, and shooting techniques to continuously improve the sound and picture quality, making the video loading and playing more smoothly, and the video shooting easier.
Phase No. 2
In the second phase of Douyin, the Douyin team was committed to exploring the characteristics of mainstream target users. The continuous improvement of the core functions of the product laid the foundation for the explosive growth of users in the later period. Since then, Douyin has fully deployed the short video innovation market, focusing on operation, promotion, and accumulation of users, while the technology department still spare no effort to provide a better user experience, such as adding 3D stickers and props to allow users to create more interesting videos. Further, Douyin has also increased its promotion budget, invested heavily in several variety shows, and planned various marketing activities (Zhang, 2019).
Douyin’s Growing Dominace, Caixin, some rights reserved.
Phase No. 3
Douyin has continued to optimize product functions to increase product differentiation competitiveness. At the maturity stage, the word-of-mouth reputation of the product has been completed, and the cumulative number of users has been achieved. The application has been downloaded by more than 800 million users worldwide in more than 150 countries (Iqbal, 2020). In just two years, Douyin completed the three stages of the PLC (product life cycle), the introduction, the growth, and the maturity, and back to the growth stage again. The huge market share is undoubtedly an important reason why Douyin has an advantage in the competition of short video software.
The business model of Douyin
Traffic Monetization & Value-added Services
According to Afuah, (2019), the term business model refers to a system in which an enterprise meets the needs of consumers, and the source and structure of value obtained in the operation of the company. Douyin has fully attained the commercial value of the short video industry, opened up a recognized, practicable, and sustainable profit model, and converted the current high clicks and interactions of short videos into commercial value (Lorenz, 2019). The main profit method of Douyin is traffic monetization in which converting existing traffics into revenue and other value-added services ((Meisenzahl, 2019). Value-added services include purchasing paid effects and props, purchasing DOU+ services to get priority recommendations, etc. While traffic monetization includes advertising marketing and interactive marketing.
Different from YouTube and other traditional video websites which the advertising profit mainly depends on the ads placed before the videos. Douyin puts the focus of advertising marketing on three types of means, the on-screen ads that appear at the first entrance of the application, soft advertising (informative ads), and the placement ads that cooperate with influencers, use popularity to drive profits (Mavis et al., 2019). Secondly, the interactive marketing of Douyin is based on the characteristics of UGC, which used “social communication” as the core idea of its interactive promotion. The brand will initiate topical challenge activities, sets rewards, and allows ordinary users to upload videos related to the product theme with hashtags. Eventually, the users will be attracted by the rewards to involve in the activities, and unconsciously become parts of the advertising processes (Zhang, 2019).
Live- Streaming & E-commerce
Furthermore, the live-streaming function launched by Douyin is essentially a highly interactive marketing tool. Influencer’s live broadcast on Douyin can not only interact with a large number of fans but also complete traffic monetization through virtual gifts rewarded by fans. Douyin will draw a certain amount of profit from virtual gifts given by fans (Arch, 2019). Other business models include cooperation with e-commerce platforms. Douyin will display a shopping cart link in the lower-left corner of the video, and users can click to jump to online shopping software, such as Taobao.
Screenshots of how Taobao works in Douyin, Marketing To China, Some rights reserved
Douyin’s internet ecology
In the Internet age, only by actively constructing an Internet ecosystem can companies maintain an advantageous position in the fierce competition and obtain greater commercial benefits. Internet ecology is an ecosystem of chain circle value realized through the integration of cross-industry chain and expansion of user relationship circles based on Internet technology (Looi, 2001).
With its accurate recommendation algorithm and good product experience, Douyin has become a giant in the domestic short video field in China, and it has acquired similar short video software musical.ly and has become the most popular short video social software globally (BBC, 2019). The short video apps such as Weishi, Kuaishou, Likee, and Triller are the main direct competitors of social networking platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and WeChat, which share the same target audiences—-the young generation.
The partnership with different brands, for example, Dior, Gucci, BMW, and Airbnb, not only achieve the purpose of deepening the brand image and promoting brand products but also bring traffics and revenue to Douyin. The interactive marketing mentioned before is the main tool of brands cooperating with Douyin to promote a win-win situation. Additionally, the music industry also can be part of the internet ecology of Douyin as viral videos and trends are promoting the sharing of music (Beer, 2019). The most popular songs in iTunes are used in Douyin to create interesting dance cover video or lip-sync video.
The following diagram is Douyin’s Internet Ecology:
The relationship between Douyin and Internet transformation
As one of many short video mobile phone applications, Douyin is also a new media application born in the Internet era. The rapid development of smartphones and visual culture has laid the foundation for its popularity. The new media era is a new Internet media environment based on digital communication, dissimilar to traditional media such as television, newspapers, and magazines, the emerging technologies and the Internet have given new media with completely different characteristics from traditional media. Compared with the past, the current media environment has undergone a more obvious change in visual and information transmission methods (Bhandari & Bimo, 2020). Douyin has a strong grasp of time and authority, and its fragmented communication characteristics are in line with the Internet era.
Although Douyin defines itself as social software, Douyin is more interesting and more visual than traditional social software. All complex forms of expression tend to be expressed simply and vividly (Collie & Wilson-Barnao, 2020). In order to firmly controls the attention of the public, the short videos on Douyin often strive to be innovative and surprising with highly entertaining content.
Screenshot of Douyin Homepage by Kerong Chen
The Self-expression online
Moreover, the dissemination of short videos meets the social needs of ordinary audiences, satisfies their desire to be followed, and stimulates their strong desire for expression (Livingstone, 2008). From the perspective of communication, every user is a communicator. This video platform that records life in different ways has a complete mass communication process. Anyone can publish videos anywhere as long as they have a smartphone and the Internet on Douyin. It’s convenient for users to share the moments they are experiencing with others and get responses from others.
The full-time interaction and universal participation of Douyin enable users to get likes and comments from others, as well as interact with each other, and form a communication circle with people with the same hobbies, thereby enhancing users’ sense of social belonging and identity (Livingstone, 2008).
The Transformation of Today’s media
From the perspective of the Internet media era, the short video trend led by Douyin is exactly that the ordinary’s preference for today’s media content is shifting towards a short-term expression. People rely on the timeliness of mass media to establish a close relationship with the world around them. The acceleration of modern life has led to the emergence of a media culture characterized by “fast” and “simple” under such a cultural background (Bishop, 2019). The content on Douyin does not need to spend a lot of time to understand the whole structure of a story, the stimulus comes quickly and can be presented in a few seconds, for example, a prank or reversal can be made for you within 15 seconds. The essence of this phenomenon is the decline of modern people’s tolerance for time, and only hope that the media can convey the information in the shortest time.
At last, Douyin also provides a platform for the spread of culture. Ordinary users can easily upload and publish cultural pieces with regional characteristics, from food culture to folk customs, and various traditional crafts, which fully demonstrate the and development status of each region. Especially in the context of the globalized Internet, Douyin is conducive to enhancing the influence of localized communication, enabling users to better understand the historical culture and customs around the world, thereby enhancing respect and tolerance in the process of cultural communication (Granieri, 2014).
The development of any emerging industry will influence the existing pattern. With the increasingly accelerating pace of social operations and continuous improvement of Internet infrastructure, the future prospects of the short video industry are very impressive. By then, the rapid development of the short video industry has also exposed some problems, especially the severe challenges for content supervision. For example, Douyin has infringement and piracy of illegal content, data security and privacy risks, and bad living habits that may be caused by long-term browsing. These are all worthy of society’s attention and research.
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